Photos: Scarcity forces doctors to buy water for surgery across India

UPDATED ON JUL 13, 2019 07:29 PM IST
Water pours from a pipe into a tanker at a government-run water-filling station in Chennai. Failed rains last year and delays in this year’s annual monsoon have left nearly half of India facing drought-like conditions, according to the South Asia Drought Monitor. This is forcing many hospitals to buy water for running their operations. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
T.N. Ravisankar, chairman of Sudar Hospitals, at one of Sudar’s clinics in Chennai. Treating patients will “depend on God’s mercy” if water supplies in India’s fourth-largest metropolis aren’t replenished shortly, Ravisankar said. Piped water at his hospitals has already dried up, and even the more expensive water trucks he now relies on may be unavailable soon in the state of Tamil Nadu. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
A nurse washes her hands at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. “The cost escalation will have to be passed on to patients, who will have to spend more,” Ravisankar said. “If the situation continues, after a month we won’t be able to serve patients.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
Doctors treat a patient at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. Tamil Nadu is trapped in a “severe dry” cycle along with other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Up north, India’s capital New Delhi has recorded the worst monsoon delay in 45 years. Consequently, political parties are blaming the state government for its lack of planning for water-truck supplies to large swathes of the city. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
A worker washes the test slide of an agglutination kit in a medical lab at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. India has witnessed widespread droughts in four of the past five years, and the government forecasts that per head availability of water will fall by 35% next year from 2001 levels. Hospitals, which rely on water for sanitation and preventing infections, are suffering as the cost of water rises. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
A nurse and a visitor in the emergency ward at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. Elsewhere, hospitals face similar challenges. Ashok Thorat, chief medical officer at a state-run hospital in Beed, Maharashtra said, “More people turn up at our government hospital because private clinics have to pay more to buy water and pass on costs to patients. We can arrange at least some free water from the municipal corporation, but even that has limits.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
Fish carcasses at the bottom of the dried-out Porur Lake in Chennai. “Not many are informed about just how big the dangers are,” said Arivudai Nambi Appadurai, head of India adaption strategy at the World Resources Institute. “The quality of water being bought even by homes in drought-struck areas has caused allergies, sending more patients to local hospitals in places like Chennai.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
A man casts a fishing net in the depleted Porur Lake. The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised an ambitious healthcare expansion ahead of his re-election in May, announced a water conservation awareness program on July 1. Yet it’s unclear if the measures will be enough to ensure a steady supply of clean water. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
A water tank operator pours water from a pipe into a water tanker at a government-run filling station in Chennai. The water shortages risk further hurting the already struggling state-run health system. India spends only around 1% of GDP on healthcare, and aims to increase it to 2.5% by 2025. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
Residents wait in line to fill pots from a truck in Chennai. Almost all of Chennai’s hospitals are now completely dependent on the more than 5,000 privately-owned tankers that ferry water around the city every day, according to N. Nijalingam, president of the Tamil Nadu Private Water Tanker Lorry Owners’ Association. But it’s becoming tougher to source water even from 100 kilometers away, he said. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
Empty water pots, left to be refilled by a water truck, line a street next to a generator kiosk in a residential area in Chennai. The price of a 12,000-litre water truck soared from 1,200 rupees in April to as high as 6,000 rupees since shortages began, The News Minute website reported. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)
In Chennai, Ravisankar said a long-term solution is needed. Rainfall in southern India this week was 30% below normal levels, according to the India Meteorological Department. “Right now, there’s an emergency so the government is bringing water by trains,” Ravisankar said, referring to supplies that are typically reserved for drinking water instead of hospitals. “But beyond this? It’s all left to nature.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Water pours from a pipe into a tanker at a government-run water-filling station in Chennai. Failed rains last year and delays in this year’s annual monsoon have left nearly half of India facing drought-like conditions, according to the South Asia Drought Monitor. This is forcing many hospitals to buy water for running their operations. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

T.N. Ravisankar, chairman of Sudar Hospitals, at one of Sudar’s clinics in Chennai. Treating patients will “depend on God’s mercy” if water supplies in India’s fourth-largest metropolis aren’t replenished shortly, Ravisankar said. Piped water at his hospitals has already dried up, and even the more expensive water trucks he now relies on may be unavailable soon in the state of Tamil Nadu. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A nurse washes her hands at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. “The cost escalation will have to be passed on to patients, who will have to spend more,” Ravisankar said. “If the situation continues, after a month we won’t be able to serve patients.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Doctors treat a patient at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. Tamil Nadu is trapped in a “severe dry” cycle along with other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Up north, India’s capital New Delhi has recorded the worst monsoon delay in 45 years. Consequently, political parties are blaming the state government for its lack of planning for water-truck supplies to large swathes of the city. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A worker washes the test slide of an agglutination kit in a medical lab at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. India has witnessed widespread droughts in four of the past five years, and the government forecasts that per head availability of water will fall by 35% next year from 2001 levels. Hospitals, which rely on water for sanitation and preventing infections, are suffering as the cost of water rises. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A nurse and a visitor in the emergency ward at a Sudar Hospitals clinic. Elsewhere, hospitals face similar challenges. Ashok Thorat, chief medical officer at a state-run hospital in Beed, Maharashtra said, “More people turn up at our government hospital because private clinics have to pay more to buy water and pass on costs to patients. We can arrange at least some free water from the municipal corporation, but even that has limits.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Fish carcasses at the bottom of the dried-out Porur Lake in Chennai. “Not many are informed about just how big the dangers are,” said Arivudai Nambi Appadurai, head of India adaption strategy at the World Resources Institute. “The quality of water being bought even by homes in drought-struck areas has caused allergies, sending more patients to local hospitals in places like Chennai.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A man casts a fishing net in the depleted Porur Lake. The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised an ambitious healthcare expansion ahead of his re-election in May, announced a water conservation awareness program on July 1. Yet it’s unclear if the measures will be enough to ensure a steady supply of clean water. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

A water tank operator pours water from a pipe into a water tanker at a government-run filling station in Chennai. The water shortages risk further hurting the already struggling state-run health system. India spends only around 1% of GDP on healthcare, and aims to increase it to 2.5% by 2025. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Residents wait in line to fill pots from a truck in Chennai. Almost all of Chennai’s hospitals are now completely dependent on the more than 5,000 privately-owned tankers that ferry water around the city every day, according to N. Nijalingam, president of the Tamil Nadu Private Water Tanker Lorry Owners’ Association. But it’s becoming tougher to source water even from 100 kilometers away, he said. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

Empty water pots, left to be refilled by a water truck, line a street next to a generator kiosk in a residential area in Chennai. The price of a 12,000-litre water truck soared from 1,200 rupees in April to as high as 6,000 rupees since shortages began, The News Minute website reported. (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

In Chennai, Ravisankar said a long-term solution is needed. Rainfall in southern India this week was 30% below normal levels, according to the India Meteorological Department. “Right now, there’s an emergency so the government is bringing water by trains,” Ravisankar said, referring to supplies that are typically reserved for drinking water instead of hospitals. “But beyond this? It’s all left to nature.” (Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg)

About The Gallery

Doctors in cities across India are facing unprecedented water shortages, owing to failed rains last year and delays in this year’s annual monsoon. Tamil Nadu is trapped in a “severe dry” cycle along with other states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. This has led to hospitals outsourcing water from private tankers, thereby increasing the cost of treating the patients. New Delhi, the capital, is also experiencing water shortage, which is becoming a subject for political blame-games.

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